A career action plan is crucial to helping executives reach their goals. Yogi Barra said it best, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” So whether you want to change jobs, transition to a new industry or career, or simply get more out of your current job, you need to take time to create a plan.
Step One: Take Stock
The first step is to assess where you are. To figure out where you’re going, you must first look at where you’ve been.
Here are some questions to help you assess where you are:
==What are you most proud of this past year — personally, and professionally?
==What went right last year?
==Did you receive any awards or recognition last year?
==Did you take on any additional responsibility last year? If so, what?
==How did you take initiative in your job last year?
==Have you learned any new skills?
==Did you earn any certifications or licenses?
Jot this information down. Then take time to record your accomplishments as you go through the year instead of waiting until the end of this year.
Next, look at opportunities for improvement in your career. How does your salary stack up against your worth to the company? Is your current position in alignment with your priorities and your core values? Where is change needed?
Step Two: Articulate Your Goal
Decide what you want. Describe your ideal job:
- What is your ideal employer? (size, industry, culture, location, structure)
- How much would your dream job pay? (Realistically)
- What are the most important benefits — other than salary — that would prompt you to go to work for a new company?
- Describe your ideal job — the position you would most like to have. What is the job title, responsibilities, who you would report to, who would report to you? Would it involve travel? What role do you want to have in a senior management team? Do you like short-term projects or long-term projects? Do you want to have more of an intrapreneurial role?
- Is there anything you do in your current job that you don’t want to do in your next job?
Step Three: Make a Plan
Identify 2-3 goals you want to tackle. Use the S.M.A.R.T. goal system to articulate your goals; they should be “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Oriented.”
Write down why you are interested in making the change. What is your motivation for taking this path? Another good question to ask yourself is, “How will I know when I’ve achieved my goal(s)?”
Take time to prepare a game plan for how you will reach your goal. Write down the list of steps under each goal that you will need to take to make the goal happen. The more individual steps you can map out, the easier it will be for you to reach your goals. The steps should be practical tasks that will lead you to achieve the goal.
Give yourself milestones so you can measure your progress. How will you know when you’re on the right track? Include specific dates and numbers in your milestones.
Step Four: Take Action
With the tasks you’ve outlined in Step Three, this gives you a checklist of items to use to take action. As you work your way through your task list, focus on these actions, realizing that if you are taking the right actions, these should eventually lead to the results you seek. If you’re not getting the results you want, change the plan, not the goal. Re-examine your tasks and see if there is something you are missing.
It can also be helpful to get outside feedback. Enlisting the help of an accountability partner — a mentor, colleague or coach — can provide valuable perspective on your progress. This individual can also keep you on track, making sure you are working through your task list.
Step Five: Measure Your Progress
Plan periodic assessments of your progress along the way. This can be a monthly or quarterly “checkup” where you review your plan and make any necessary changes.
Taking the time to think through and plan out your career is an important step in helping you create the career you want for yourself. If you don’t, you may find your career stuck or stalled. Or, you may wake up five years from now and wonder, “How did I get here?” If you want to achieve more in your professional executive life, invest the time and effort now.